Over these weeks the gospel reading at our Sunday Mass has reflected on Christ’s ministry of healing, albeit in a variety ways. Two weeks ago we heard of the Samaritan woman at the well, offered the living water of life by Christ as the antidote to her life of sin. Last week we heard of the recovery of the sight of the man born blind; an analogy for our own cleansing from original sin. And this week we hear the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus.
In each of these readings the healing described is far more than a merely physical healing. In each example, as with so much from the Gospel according to Saint John, the mere “story” that we hear is only the surface, irrigated by roots that provide a deeper, more profound narrative. When we hear of the women at the well drinking water, for instance, we know that it is in fact the living water of baptism that is offered. When we hear of the man born blind gaining his sight, we know that it is revelation that is the key.
Aware of this, what do we find in this week’s text? What insight can we glean, especially as we stand on this threshold, preparing as we are for the coming—this time next week—of the most sacred season of the year: Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum, culminating in the great feast of the resurrection?
We heard at the start of Lent of the origins of original sin in the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, through their disobedience, committed the first crime against the Lord. Through their choice to follow their own will over the will of God, our first parents were cast out of the paradise of the Garden of Eden; out of that perfect relationship with their creator. So too each of us, their children, is an inheritor of original sin until through baptism that stain is blotted out by a new and more perfect union with God in Christ.
In the waters of baptism we are born again into a new family, that of Jesus Christ, and so lose the stain of original sin and regain our citizenship of paradise. Through baptism the gate of heaven is opened to us once more. Indeed, throughout these forty days and forty nights it is that pilgrimage toward the restoration of our life in paradise—the journey of our life from sin to union with him—that we trace. Lent recalls the journey of mankind from slavery to sin to the Promised Land. At the same time it traces that journey in our own lives; one whose end is promised by the covenant we share with Christ through baptism; a covenant sealed in his own blood.
That journey is one from death to life. We are, through sin, dead to God but, through baptism, alive in him once more. Born again in Christ we receive new and eternal life in union with him in this life and so also in the life of the world to come. We are, as it were, healed of the sickness (that is sin) that leads to death, and brought to healing and wholeness (that is grace) through Christ’s intervention in our lives. Indeed, the Latin word for health, salus, is the same word from which we get the English word “salvation.” Christ heals our soul, bringing us to salvation: healing, wholeness, eternal union with God.
Listen, now, to the words of Christ on hearing of the sickness of his friend, Lazarus: “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.” This is a message that we also hear, because like Lazarus we too are in a friendship with Christ, and are given his healing touch. The sickness from which we suffer—that caused by sin—will, through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection ultimately “end not in death but in God’s glory.” Through our baptism, and by our ongoing fidelity to that new life in him, we receive the healing of our wounds, and are restored not simply to normality, but to a radical and more perfect life in and with Christ himself. We are brought out of the tombs of our slavery to sin and, ultimately to mortality, and given new life by Christ, in Christ and with Christ for all eternity.
How, then, do we invite Christ to heal the wounds caused by sin in our lives? How do we receive the healing we so dearly require? First, of course, through baptism itself. But, recognising that by our sin we have sullied the brilliant and pure baptismal garment with which we have been clothed—we have, as it were, gone back on our word—it is also through the recognition of our sins and their confession in the sacrament of reconciliation and penance. that we receive that healing anew.
Dear friends in these days before the great celebration of Easter, which is the ultimate feast of this journey from death to life, we are called to prepare in a new and intentional way for this everlasting life with Christ in God. This starts by asking Christ to come into our lives once more; to heal us and to make us whole—to make us one with him again. It is only through our humble confession and the restoration of our life in Christ that we can hope to be united to him and so also to the gift of new life he offers. May we be encouraged to seek out that healing love and, finding it in Christ alone, be healed and restored to the life of heaven.